Musings of a Sidewalk Explorer: Woodpeckers

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

The woodpeckers in my neighborhood are announcing themselves to anyone willing to listen by pounding their heads against anything that will produce noise. Some birds have found creative places to drum, as the louder the drumming the more likely to attract a mate or maintain a territory. I actually saw one bird drumming on a chimney cap…it was loud and I can only imagine what it sounded like inside the house. Other possible drumming sites are hollow trees, gutters, transformer boxes, trash cans, siding of homes, phone poles, and tree stumps; basically anything that resonates sound. Find out more about woodpeckers in Massachusetts and what to do if one decides to drum on your house

I then wondered how woodpeckers could continually bang their heads against a hard surface and not become impaired. Turns out nature took care of that with adaptations to protect them: built-in shock absorbers, the actual structure of their skull and beak redirects pressure away from its head, and perhaps my favorite, it can wrap its tongue around its head (internally) to help cushion the blows. Find out more about how woodpeckers can drum without getting brain damage

Have some woodpecker fun: 

How many knock, knock jokes you can tell? 

How many “W” words can you work into a sentence? Here’s my best attempt: “The white woodpecker wilted while waiting for winter to wane.” 

Make a cool woodpecker that moves up and down a string like a real one working a tree. 

Fold an origami woodpecker

Send us your best attempts at woodpecker fun on Facebook or Instagram! 

How to Shop Safe and Local

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop, and trails remain closed during this time, the farm will be open and we hope that you will continue to support the local vendors that we partner with to fill our gift shop shelves. Though you can’t shop through us right now, you can still easily shop directly with many of our vendors for all of your upcoming gifts, gardening, or grocery needs – it will be easy to see why we have been so proud to partner with them at Moose Hill.

The two current best ways to directly support Moose Hill are by joining us as a member, taking advantage of the new member special for just $32, and by joining our Organic CSA, where you can get 18 weeks of fresh vegetables worth $27-$32 a week. Guaranteed fresh vegetables without needing to remember to place an order each week – what a great deal! We will be starting our CSA program on time in late May. Arrangements will be made for a safe pick-up process for shareholders and farmers if the COVID-19 situation continues into the CSA season. By purchasing a CSA share now, you’re giving valuable support to our farmers as they continue to work to provide fresh, sustainable food for our community.

While we can’t physically sell the great products from our local partners in our shop right now, we want to help you reach them virtually, or contact free, and continue to show them some love. Visit the list below to check out what your neighbors and community members have available.

CatBird Design – Greeting Cards / Nature Photography / Jewelry and More
Cilla’s Creations – Cement Garden Decorations
Chickadee Seed & Feed – Bird Seed, Feeders, Garden Supplies, Feed, and More
Country Farm Candles – Family Owned Hand Poured Soy Candles
Good Life Creations – Personalized Gifts & Decor
Ink’d – COMMUN-A-TEE T-Shirts and Masks
Jim’s Organic Coffee – Local Coffee Offering 15% Off Your Online Order
Mass Audubon Shop – Limited Version of the Usual Online Shop
Nelumbo Healing Arts – Nature Art, Jewelry, and Hand Crafted Self Care Products.
Our Corner Booth – Handmade Wooden Home Goods & Decor.
The Petal Peddler’s Shop – Unique Handcrafted Paper Flower Bouquets
Ring by Ring Designs – Handmade Jewelry
Simpson Spring – Local Grocery Goods (Including Local Meat), Fresh Spring Water, Gifts, and More
Tea Guys – Local Tea
TreeHouse Farms – Local Eggs, Meat Birds, and More
Ward’s Berry Farm – Local Groceries, Plants, and Moose Hill Maple Syrup
Yellow Ochre Studio – Original Gouache Paintings & Giclee Prints

We hope you are all staying safe and healthy and miss you dearly. Thank you for your continued patronage and shared love of nature.

How to Make a Recycled Nature Journal

Julia is a teacher-naturalist at Moose Hill who has been with Mass Audubon for over two and a half years and at Moose Hill specifically for the last year and a half. Julia is passionate about conservation and protecting the environment so future generations have the same resources that we have today and she loves sharing that passion with people of all ages. With a background in geology and environmental studies and research projects on fluvial features on mars as well as wetland restoration, she can easily teach on the many aspects at Moose Hill, hopefully sparking an interest or love of the environment in children and adults. She particularly loves seeing a child express excitement over something they learned.

Make your own homemade journal using recycled materials found in your home. Then use it to write and draw about things you see and observe in nature! 

Materials: 

  • Cardboard from a cereal box, soda box, or any other cardboard item 
  • Ruler 
  • Pencil/pen 
  • Hole punch  
  • Scissors 
  • Yarn 
  • 5 sheets of computer paper/any paper you have in your home 

Instructions: 

  • Using the ruler, measure 2 pieces of the card board as a 6” by 9” rectangle using the ruler and pen to mark the measurements. 
  • Cut out the 2 measured cardboard pieces. 
  • Fold 5 sheets of 8” by 10” computer paper in half the “hamburger” way. You may use more paper but keep in mind it will be harder to poke holes in it the more paper you have. You may also use any kind of paper you have. 
  • Using the hole punch, punch three holes along the edge of each cardboard piece and the folded packet of paper. Make sure the holes line up with each other. You can use scissors to make the holes if you do not have a hole punch. 
  • Using your yarn, weave through the holes. Put the yarn down through the top hole, up through the middle hole, and down through the bottom hole. 
  • Then weave the yarn back up through the middle hole, and back down through the top hole.  
  • Then tie the two ends together.  

And tada, you have a nature journal! Now get out there and document that nature that is budding in your backyard right now. You can take it another step further and decorate the cover however you see fit so that it is personalized just for you.

We hope you had fun crafting with us today. Be sure to share your findings with us on Facebook or Instagram! We love to see what you come up with.

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop and trails are closed during this time, there are still a number of ways you can support Moose Hill as we prepare for when we once again can welcome everyone back – join Mass Audubon (there’s a new member special for just $32 dollars!); join our CSA, with a regular pick-up worth $27-$32 a week, it’s a guarantee of fresh, organic vegetables this summer; support our partners:

Musings From a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

I was excited to notice the first buzzing bumblebee bumbling around my yard (it was a bit chilly, so I think that may have been impacting the bee’s flight path). I am sure it was searching for a flower to have a snack; however, to date the only things blooming in my yard are maple trees, daffodils, and a few weedy lawn plants, slim pickings for sure. I am hoping the bumblebee will be back when my blueberry bush is in bloom since bumblebees are blueberry pollinators. Since they are way too big to physically get into a blueberry flower to access the pollen, they use buzz pollination! They grab hold of the flower and vibrate their bodies at the proper frequency so the pollen drops out.  Watch this super cool adaptation! 

Learn about bumblebees (and other bees/wasps) in Massachusetts. 

Learn all about bumblebees. 

Celebrate bumblebees…here’s how: 

  • Enjoy blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, or the fresh fruit unadorned to show your appreciation of bumblebees! 

Let us know your bumblebee (and other pollinator) sightings and activities.  Be well and stay safe. 

Musings From a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from my daily walk. While I wait for the heat to arrive (and the snow to depart…really?!) I am reminded of the adage: there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices. This spring has put my wardrobe to the ultimate test, as just when you think it’s safe to put the winter apparel away, it snows (again, really?!)! My rain coat has had a workout as well, including one walk where rain turned to sleet and I watched it bounce off my sleeves. This was the walk that confirmed that I need to invest in some rain pants.  

I hope the weather doesn’t deter you from venturing outside. In full disclosure, I did stay in during a couple of rainy days when it was raining sideways, and also thought it prudent to stay in the day it was so windy that it blew over a tree and the power went out. So, I hope you will explore nature no matter what the weather, within reason. Here’s a few ideas of what to do: 

Let us know how you celebrated spring’s ever-changing weather.  Be well and stay safe!

A Wandering Naturalists Notes

Michael, who worked part-time for Mass Audubon for 15 years before joining the Moose Hill team permanently 10 years ago, is our very own wandering naturalist. He is always on the move, notices everything in nature, and has a passion for sharing what he sees. Michael can make anyone see just how amazing nature is – no matter where you find that place – in your town, at the shore, in the mountains. As with all of us, he is enjoying some daily walks on the streets in his town and shares the spring activity that is happening outside now.

Early Spring: Late March-mid-April

Welcome to Spring!!  After an exceptionally warm, and dry, January and February (8-9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 100 year average), this trend continued till late March when temperatures became more seasonable and precipitation more copious.   This, in turn, yielded the beginning of an earlier Spring with daffodills and crocuses up by mid-March, and birds like Pine Warblers returning from their southern, wintering grounds. Here are some of the observations I’ve made over the past few weeks on my Wanderings in my own neighborhood and what I know is awakening at Moose Hill. 

Red Maple flower (male)

Red Maple flowers—male: Some of the earliest of our trees to flower, giving off a “reddish-orange” hue from a distance; Driving along our roads and highways, this is one tree that you can identify clearly this time of year; the male flowers usually appear before the female ones to spread their pollen; with all of the rain and wind during April, many have fallen to the ground, littering lawns and driveways.

Red Maple flower (female)

Red Maple flowers—female: These bright red flowers tend to appear just after most male flowers have opened up AND for good reason, “Why bloom any earlier than you need to?”  New seeds (and genetic potential for the species) will be produced IF they are properly fertilized during the Spring; And IF that happens like usual, flowing water will carry them to a scarified embankment so that they may potentially germinate;  A few late freezes during early Spring (when morning temperatures drop to just below 32 degrees Fahrenheit)  might keep these seeds from even forming, so I am monitoring a few trees carefully.

Willow flowers (male)

Willow flowers (male): this genus of plants (especially the shrubbier species) also inhabits our wetlands and displays its flowers nice and early; One of the most northerly of shrubs, willows are a hardy lot, so no worries about their being able to survive cold temps and snow!  Just look at those little “pussy cat mittens!”

American Elm flowers

American Elm flowers: the Massachusetts state tree is one of the larger species to flower in the early Spring, also within wetlands and alongside streams & roads; still occasionally ravaged by Dutch Elm Disease in certain areas (western MA and up through VT), there are many healthy individuals in our neck of the woods IF you just look carefully enough—check out their classic form (below) and swelling flower buds as you drive along Rte. 27 (from Cobb’s Corner) up the hill to Sharon Center…there is a large individual on the left; Some are still in flower, while others are going to seed.

American Elm

The “vase-like shape” of an American Elm: those 3 trees I just mentioned (in Sharon) possess some of this lovely form, but not quite like those that grow in more open areas of New England.

Carolina Spring Beauty

Green Grass and early Spring Wildflowers!—some grasses flower in open, sunny forests; on lawns (and in protected areas) dandelions have begun to flower; skunk cabbage leaves enlargen, hiding their early Spring flowers; Carolina spring beauty blankets the forest floor of our lower sugarbush—a truly unique habitat in these parts with its deep, alkaline (or “sweet”) soils and almost always adjacent to a flowing body of water.

Spicebush flower

Shrubs—flowering and leafing out. The spicebush (in swamps/along streams, especially those found along Moose Hill Street) are beginning to flower and add a lovely, yellow hue to these habitats; growing at our “eye level”, they are quite easy to see; tiny yellow flowers with a “lemon pledge” type scent. Huckleberries, lowbush blueberries, and a whole host of invasive, exotic shrubs have begun to leaf out as well; flower buds of highbush blueberry begin to swell and soon will open, attracting bumblebees and other insects with their sweet scent.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawks–I’ve seen a number of these hawks circling overhead and making that distinctive, loud “Kyah! Kyah! Kyah!” over the past 2-3 weeks, often in pairs; Like Robins, Phoebes, Tree Swallows, and a handful of other birds, these are your “long distance migrants” that overwinter down in the southeastern US; So great to hear and see them back again down in these parts!  A pair nested in the swamp across the street from us last year and I am guessing that they’ll favor that again; A little smaller than your Red-Tailed Hawk with a tail that isn’t always so “broad”, besides the reddish coloration in spots and banding, are good field marks.

Pine Warbler

Along with the Yellow-shafted Flickers, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Woodcock, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, and a few other species that have returned to their breeding grounds in our area (2-3 weeks earlier than in year’s past), the Pine Warbler has also made its return, filling the piney woods with its musical trill; more often seen than heard, although they occasionally visit bird feeders during April-May.

Spring Peeper

Spring Peepers!—the little chorus frogs have been calling over the last few weeks in the wetlands across the street from our home, as well as down the road in a much larger, Red Maple swamp;  a high-pitched, “peep, peep, preeeep”, almost reminiscent of sleighbells in the distance.

Wood Frog

Wood Frogs—these most-northerly of amphibians started calling (or “quacking”) in larger numbers within our Vernal Pools during the 2nd week of March this year, 2-3 weeks earlier than usual; usually, an “explosive breeder”, with males calling loudly over a few days period and determined to attract females; a few could still be heard chorusing along Moose Hill Street (and Moose Hill Parkway) during mid-April.

Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Garter Snake—the most northerly of reptiles, at least 2 individuals were observed basking in the sunshine along the Vernal Pool Loop back in mid-March.

There’s so much happening outside – what are you noticing on your wanderings around your yard, your neighborhood, your town?

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop and trails are closed during this time, there are still a number of ways you can support Moose Hill as we prepare for when we once again can welcome everyone back – join Mass Audubon (there’s a new member special for just $32 dollars!); join our CSA, with a regular pick-up worth $27-$32 a week, it’s a guarantee of fresh, organic vegetables this summer; support our partners:

Musings from a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

Northern Mockingbird

As I continue to take daily walks as a means to keep active and stay sane, I have noticed an abundance of Northern Mockingbirds along my route.  This slender gray and white bird with flashes of white on the wings when it flies is not shy; I saw one dive bomb a cat years ago and one did a close fly-by of my husband last week. Look for them perched on phone poles, roof tops, and sometimes hiding in the shrubs.

The Mockingbird is a mimic…and an accomplished one too. This morning I would have bet the bird singing was a White-throated Sparrow, but alas, it was the Mockingbird.

Mockingbirds have been known to mimic alarm clocks, frogs, car alarms, and other sounds, including an array of local birds. It will repeat each call two to six times, although I have noticed it is usually in sets of three. So, unless you see a flock of singing birds, it is probably a single Mockingbird. 

Find out more about this bird:

On your next exploration in your neighborhood or yard this weekend, look/listen for the Mockingbird; you don’t have to be an expert birder to identify it. 

Take a lesson from a Mockingbird:

  • randomly choose a word from the dictionary (I suggest “crepuscular” to start) and use it at least three times in a day;
  • learn to count to three (and beyond) in a new language,
  • play the mirror game where one person copies the actions of another.

And, if you want a little extra fun this weekend, why not try one of these activities as you Explore Nature at Home.

Be well and be safe!

Tales from a Wandering Naturalist

Michael, who worked part-time for Mass Audubon for 15 years before joining the Moose Hill team permanently 10 years ago, is our very own wandering naturalist. He is always on the move, notices everything in nature, and has a passion for sharing what he sees. Michael can make anyone see just how amazing nature is – no matter where you find that place – in your town, at the shore, in the mountains. As with all of us, he is enjoying some daily walks on the streets in his town and shares the spring activity that is happening outside now.

Red-shouldered hawk

Across from my house, there is a resident Red-shouldered hawk who wakes us up each morning and just squawks a bit, so I have come to know this call quite well! Learn more about the Red-shouldered hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Red-tailed hawk

Yesterday as I was walking down the road in West Stoughton, I noticed a Red-shouldered hawk flying over calling loudly, ‘kiyah, kiyah, kiyah’. THEN it landed on a gray squirrel’s nest high up in an Oak tree.  Within seconds, a Red-tailed Hawk fly out from a nearby tree (making its distinctive call), and the smaller Red-shouldered hawk flew after it.  This is the second time I have seen the Red-shouldered hawk on top of one of those nests (close to the forest edge) too. Learn more about the Red-tailed hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Cooper’s hawk

But that wasn’t the end, within a couple of minutes, a Cooper’s hawk called from within this patch of forest. Learn more about the Cooper’s hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Quite an amazing few minutes there and definitely some competition for food resources between these 3 species of raptors, not to mention some nesting territory issues which does occur here.  Ah, but if they ONLY knew about the local, Great-horned Owl.

There are SO many things to see and hear in our area during April – what have you seen or heard in your neighborhoods?

Musings from a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

red maple flowers

Spring has marched onto the scene in the form of an exploded rainbow! As I continue my daily walks I have noticed the colors of spring: red maple flowers sprinkled on the sidewalk; yellow daffodils, dandelions, and forsythia; tiny purple flowers gracing a road edge; a perfect blue sky (finally), and the fresh green of new leaves just emerging. What colors have you noticed?

Try a few colorful experiments:

  • Mix a few drops of food coloring in glasses of water and see what happens.
  • Make “fireworks” in a bowl of milk (one of my favorite experiments)…find out how to make Color Changing Milk from Steve Spangler Science.
  • Create an art project with every crayon in the box and share your picture with us! 
  • Have a family color sing-down; it’s easy…divide into teams and take turns singing snippets of songs that include a color.  For example, “Somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly.”
  • Of course, if you can venture onto area sidewalks, you can always search for your favorite color while outside.

And, enjoy another great story from Shawn – A Finnish tale about the Northern Lights

Be well and be safe!

Supporting Our Local Vendors

With the gift shop closed, we wanted to take a moment to highlight ways you can still support the local businesses that you can’t currently purchase from through us. We know that things are tight for a lot of folks out there right now due to so many jobs being shut down, but if you find yourself needing some of the items that our vendors below offer, we implore you to shop local and support these smaller business that are being greatly affected right now.

Country Farm Candles just launched a Tealight Soy Making Candle Kit, which makes a great at-home craft project. They are also working on a video series of candle experiments that can be done at home with the tealights so be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Cilla’s Creations has been busy working on new cement pieces to brighten up your yards and gardens that will be available for purchase curbside with a portion of the profits still going to support us at Moose Hill. Follow her Facebook to learn more details.

Celebrations have become a little different in this time of quarantine but you can still buy gifts of unique jewelry through Ring by Ring Designs on her website. Our entire Nature Collection is available with some new designs that aren’t even in the gift shop yet.

If you are anything like me and have found yourself drinking a little more coffee than usual to get through these strange days, you may need a restock. Jim’s Organic Coffee is an excellent local company that is currently offering 15% off of their online orders. All of their coffee support independent farmers in their countries of origin and their Mexican Single Origin coffee is certified bird friendly with over 100 bird species and over 200 plant species on the farm. Once you get your hands on some of their coffee, be sure to check out all the different ways it can be brewed to perfection right at home.

I know some of you are missing our maple syrup but I have good news. Ward’s is now selling our bottles of certified kosher maple syrup and they are now offering no contact curbside pick-up and home delivery for some of their groceries, including our syrup.

Simpson Spring, located in Easton, is also doing curbside pickup of their local water, meats, cheese, eggs, and yogurt options. You can call ahead or send them a message on Facebook to place an order.

Our organic CSA will be a great way to get fresh veggies in the coming months. Join our summer CSA and receive 18 weeks of fresh, organic vegetables Pickups in Sharon and Mattapan. With shares equaling just $27 to $32 per week it’s a great way to support Moose Hill and the work we do. Register online today to secure your slot. If you have questions about this program, please feel free to email us at moosehillcsa@massaudubon.org.

Right now, we’re still planning to start our CSA program on time in late May. Arrangements will be made for a safe pick-up process for shareholders and farmers if the COVID-19 situation continues into the CSA season. By purchasing a CSA share now, you’re giving valuable support to our farmers as they continue to work to provide fresh, sustainable food for our community.

If you are running low on birdseed, you can support our local supplier and pick some up at Chickadee Seed & Feed on route 1 in Walpole. They have some limited hours but they are a smaller shop where you can go safely without much interaction with other people. Check their Facebook for updates on their hours and protocols.

Lastly, Tree House Farms has fresh eggs weekly and is taking orders to raise meat birds monthly. Check out her Facebook or Instagram for updates on how to order and message her on either platform with any questions or requests.

We can’t wait to see you back up on The Hill when we are able to re-open our doors, but we hope you are all staying safe and healthy in the meantime. As always, thank you for your support of Moose Hill and for supporting our partner vendors!